Portland Muffins (Despite my Directional Issues)

I told you a couple of months ago that I visited Portland, Oregon for the first time this spring… remember when I saw Joy the Baker?  What a great city!  One of my favorite things about visiting a city is going to local food spots and having great meals and tasty treats, and being inspired to recreate them at home. (Like this savory dinner from Sizzle Pie).

One of my least favorite parts of visiting a new city is how often I get turned around/ sometimes lost/ have to think so hard about my proximity and how to get back “home”.
Confession:  I am a food-lover and a directionally-challenged person.  These are two truths about me.

It takes me a few days to get my bearings in a new spot, which is just about how long most of my trips are.  So, inconveniently,  just when I get the hang of the place, POOF! the time has flown and it’s time to go home.

I thought my fancy smart phone was going to help me with this directional issue.  And it does, to some extent.  Except that I really prefer a paper map.  I want to look at the entire map at the same time and get my bearings, and be able to read the street names simultaneously.  This doesn’t happen on an iphone screen.  And then there are “directions” and “route” options, which throw me off.  I’m faced with these decisions: should I look at the itty bitty-up-too-close-or-too-far-away map? or do I read written directions?

One night a couple of years ago, I was trying to be in two places at once (which, by the way, doesn’t work, in case you were wondering.  I keep trying to do this and it just doesn’t ever work out).  I had typed in the location of the birthday party I was trying to attend prior to getting in my car.  It was in an edgy part of town and I was traveling on the interstate.  I was confused because my map wasn’t tracking me, or I wasn’t tracking it.  I was off course.  I realized that something had gone wrong.  So, I flipped to “route” and started following its lead.  It took me into an area of town that I wasn’t expecting to enter and was a little reticent.  I then realized that while I needed to just pull over and figure this out, I wasn’t comfortable doing that in this shady area.   I looked at the phone which stated that the estimated time for travel was 25 minutes.  “OH NO!!!!!!! WHAT IN THE WORLD! WHERE AM I? WHY DID I TRUST THIS DEVICE?!”  I called my husband at that point (who is ridiculously directionally skilled) and had him talk me through getting to my destination.  I was so grateful.

When I looked more closely on my phone, after reaching my destination, I realized that there were options at the top of the screen: car, bus, and walking.  I had somehow, in my flustered moment tapped the walking button by accident and that’s where it all went wrong.  I clearly have some issues.

Well, back to Portland and my love for new foods…

I started my meals off well by meeting a couple of students and a colleague at a bakery just a few blocks away, for muffins and coffee (Pazzoria) the first morning.  It was a cute little cafe attached to a restaurant.

the home of the muffin – photo,  thanks to Becca


my out of focus photo I took of the muffin
to help me remember…

When making the difficult decision about which muffin I would enjoy with my coffee, the employee gave me a rundown on the options.  When he described this muffin: lemon cranberry, made with a cornmeal base,  I knew it was the one for me. SOLD! Yummy flavors, fun texture, and unique.  I was excited.  And it didn’t disappoint.

I then thought about the muffin for the next two days. Their hours and my schedule didn’t work for me to visit again until the morning we were leaving the city.  I decided that before we left town, I could walk up to the bakery and get another one!  So, on the day of our departure, I left my packed bags in the lobby of the hotel with our people who were gathering there to head to the airport, and ventured out to quickly secure a couple of these dreamed-about muffins.

a Portland sign

The only problem was that I got turned around when I swiftly exited the downtown hotel, where there are multiple entrances, and the “turn left to go to the muffin shop” tape in my mind wasn’t true.  I didn’t realize this until I had power-walked several blocks and began to realize that none of these landmarks were the correct ones for the muffin path.  DARN! Now, I have to have enough time to backtrack the 4 blocks towards the hotel and then travel the other (correct) direction to get to my destination.  Would I make it? Was this insane?  Is a muffin worth it? And what if they didn’t have the muffin once I arrived? I decided to jog and try to make it.   I ran in the door, asked for the cornmeal based muffins.  They had a blueberry and cranberry.  I got one of each, to share with my muffin-loving friend, Jenny.  I ran back in time to rush with our group to the bus stop to then stand and wait 20 minutes for our lift to the airport.

We ate the muffins.  We liked the cranberry better because it had a lemon component and the blueberry didn’t.  Which I hadn’t realized was so essential to the greatness of the muffin.

I came home and started working on my version of the “Portland Muffin”. (I decided the “Pazzoria muffin” didn’t have as much connection for me as the “Portland Muffin”).  I tried 3 different recipes that I found in cookbooks and online and tweaked a little here and there.   I never found a recipe for this specific combo of lemon, cornmeal and cranberries.  My neighbor, Sumner, was my taste tester. She was always willing and thankful to test another muffin on another morning.

This recipe is my best attempt so far, but I feel like it’s still not exact.  Maybe they used fattier ingredients than I do.  I would love to know.  But it is tasty and unique and reminds me of a lovely food experience in a fun city.

The texture of the cornmeal (I LOVE lots of texture) and the zip of the lemon (I LOVE zip), and the sweet of the Craisins are a lovely combination.  I will say, these muffins are far better on day one, as they tend to become dry by day 2.  I experimented with white and yellow cornmeal and with varying amounts.  You can alter it depending on how gritty you like it.

If you have ideas, I would love your input.  It’s a work in progress.

(Lemon/Cranberry/Cornmeal Muffin)
1 ½ cups flour (all purpose, white wheat, whole wheat/white combination….your choice)
½ cup fine-ground cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. kosher salt
Juice of one lemon (approx. 3 Tbsp.)
Zest of one lemon
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
6 Tbsp. butter, melted [or for a lighter muffin 4 Tbsp. melted butter and 2 Tbsp. low-fat vanilla yogurt]
1 cup dried Cranberries
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
In bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and brown sugar.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until blended.  Whisk in the milk and butter (and yogurt if using it). Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until moistened.  Fold in the cranberries.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each cup about ¾ full.  Sprinkle Turbinado sugar all over the top.
Bake until toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean, 15-18 minutes.
Let cool in the pan for 2 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
this lemon tea towel inspires me to sing about lovely lemons
(muffins, round 3- this time I made a few w/o Craisins
as per my kids’ request)

So, here’s to knowing your deficits, having friends that are skilled in those areas (on which you can lean), and replicating terrific treats that you discover on your travels! 

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